An inspiring tale of a young woman, oppressed and hunted by an over-zealous abstemious anti-feminist dystopian regime, becomes the face and weapon to bring about its destruction.
In the near distant future, a dystopian United States is governed by a new set of rules, the Moral Statues, with lawbreakers arrested, sent to trial and possibly death rather than simply fined. It is this United States that is seventeen-year-old Ember Miller’s reality. Under Article 5, the law against children conceived out of wedlock, she and her mother have just been arrested, and one of the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR) soldiers is her former flame, Chase Jennings. Heartbroken and separated from her mother, Ember is sent to a girl’s reform camp since she is still a minor. This reform camp is run by the Sisters of Salvation, an all-female religious-minded cult that sits at the right hand of the FBR. The Sisters teach and enforce that women are under the authority of men and that children should obey. Determined to find her mom and save her from death, Ember plots to leave the reform camp and blackmails her roommate, Rebecca, and her secret guard boyfriend to do it. Ember doesn’t succeed and is about to be tortured when Chase shows up to take her to trial but is secretly rescuing her. While Ember tries to figure out Chase and his motivations, they are also trying to find a safe contact in South Carolina, one who may have saved Ember’s mom. However, as fugitives from the government, they can be arrested and tortured, especially Chase as a military deserter. It’s survive or die…
Note on the religious aspects: Though it resembles some religions here, it makes an effort to cross the line into grossly unacceptable treatment–with severe physical and emotional abuse (or death) as the frequent punishments for infractions–a more brutal and oppressive fanatic version. Think puritan mixed with the intolerance of Queen Mary I’s reign. An absolute rule for the marriage of church and state.
As Ember and Chase were captured once more at the close of the first book and they faked their deaths in escaping, they attempt to hide underground because of their high-profile status. Instead, they are absorbed into the Resistance, a well-organized group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When news of Ember’s escape finally gets leaked, she is also the prime suspect for a serial sniper who has been picking off soldiers. Ember, incapable of sniper skills, must come to terms with her new reputation and what it means for their joining the Resistance. Should Ember keep hiding for fear of being shot on sight, or is this finally the time to fight back? When the Resistance comes under attack, Ember and Chase are pushed to the forefront of leadership and must navigate their changing relationship in the face of imminent disaster.
Ember and Chase are tired of running. Their journey has been leading up to this point, to finding the safe house, but their only hope is in ruins. As they navigate the wild with a small band of followers and just when they seem the most defeated, they discover the clandestine leader sect of the Resistance known as Three. Thinking this is what they’ve been searching for all along, Ember is disappointed to find yet another secretive and, she suspects, misguided group focused on achieving a means to an end despite the lives damaged. Deciding she is unwilling to morally compromise herself despite the cost, Ember must sacrifice everything she holds most dear to force the FBR to its knees and usher in a new dawn. An action packed finale that will leave you feverishly devouring to find out whether there can be any sort of happy ending for characters you’ve come to love.
Note: Violence and minor sexual references.
One of the greatest assets to this series is the characters. They are real, believable, and act in convincing ways. Despite Ember’s great trust in Chase before he was a soldier, we face uncertainty about his true motives. With Tucker, we are pretty certain he is a villain, but then he is suddenly trying to become a rebel. His wavering stance between betrayer and savior and the cost of his actions flesh out a boy whom you are hard pressed to keep a grudge against, as Ember comes to realize. Another very cool thing about this series is that there is no set locale for all the action. They visit Knoxville, Chicago, South Carolina, Charlotte, Virginia…really makes you believe you can almost look up and see the setting around you. Solid read, and I can’t wait to read her next book The Glass Arrow! (For a sneak peek at the bones of the next book, check out this article!)